Ikigai is a Japanese word that means “Purpose of Life.” This further amplifies if we have a purpose and take actions following the purpose / rationale, life becomes contended and accomplished. And that might enable us to live longer. Ikigai concept has remained popular in Japanese culture for a long time. A formal research in this regard took place to find out reasons of longevity of people of Okinawa in Japan. Result was the book: “Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life” in 2016 authored by Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles. This book for the first time brought out some common lessons why some people live longer than others. It also covered the art of staying young while growing old. Principles of Ikigai are quite logical and can be applied to any elderly person in any part of the world.
Common Principle of Ikigai:
Fundamental principle of Ikigai is that everyone should have some purpose / reasoning in life to live and that motivates him / her to go along. Some of the principles of Ikigai and their general applicability include following:
1. Follow your Ikigai: Purpose in life is the most important motivator to live and one, therefore, must follow one’s Ikigai every day and moment.
2. Never retire: Idea is to remain active till the time one can. One should continue doing the activities one likes. Pursuance of activities should be in alignment with the Ikigai. The very idea of taking retirement is like taking a backseat from actions of life and might mark beginning of the end.
3. Don’t fill your stomach: This means not to eat too much and follow the principles of having healthy and nutritious diet but within control. One of the health tips many people in Japanese society follow is known as 80 per cent secret meaning thereby that to remain healthy, people should eat only up to 80 per cent of their total permissible intake.
4. Surround with good friends: This is very important as the accompanying environment of good friends is always full of positive energy. “Stay connected for life” is the principal axiom of a happy, contended and long life. This is what is called “Moai” in Japanese language as a closely-knit friend group. Spending time with family / extended family is also equally relevant. It can be with spouse, children or grandchildren; it can be children of others in one’s society; it can also be in companionship with friends, clubs or communities. These play a very important role through developing bondage with like-minded people. It also helps in giving an opportunity to express our views. Communities like My Retired Life Foundation (MRLF) play an important role in this regard.
5. Keep smiling: Attitude of smiling even in adverse circumstances is extremely important as it depicts strength of mind as well as attitude of resilience. This also symbolises the youthful vitality and energy and brings down level of anxiety associated with advanced age.
6. Being ready for next birthday: It is an indicator of the hope that everything will continue to be fine in future. This beacon of hope is what keeps an individual busy and active in daily life activities.
7. Reconnecting with nature: To remain connected with nature and ecological system keeps one in synchronous with the larger system of “Nature” as well as the “Planet”. Idea is that a person should remain in connect with nature at least for sometime a day.
8. Give thanks: We are a part of larger society and live an inter-connected life. Gratitude should thus form an essential part of our ethos so that we remain grateful to others for our existence. This reciprocal concept of gratitude creates a climate of compassion in the Universe. This results in positive vibration all around.
9. Live in the moment: Past is long gone and no one knows about future. Happy people are those who neither regret about past nor be worried about the uncertain future; they only live in the present.
In conclusion, one can say that leading an active life with a purpose is the key to an elderly person living a happy and contented life. Principles of Ikigai provide a framework to develop a purpose and pursue it. Its universal applicability is beyond doubt. Let us develop our own Ikigai!!!
Dr A K Sen Gupta, Co-Founder and Chief Trustee of My Retired Life Foundation (MRLF). He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 9821128103.